(Al Jazeera) Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as acting president after the speaker of the parliament accepted a resignation letter sent by embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after he fled the country.
Wickremesinghe on Friday asked legislators to work towards a consensus to establish an all-party government and said he would follow the constitutional process and establish law and order after months of anti-Rajapaksa protests in a country faced with crippling fuel shortages and runaway prices of basic items.
The 73-year-old, who had already taken the role after Rajapaksa headed to Singapore via the Maldives, took his oath of office before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya. As per the constitution, the prime minister automatically becomes president in the event of a resignation.
“I am bound to protect the constitution,” Wickremesinghe said after being sworn in.
“I will never allow anything unconstitutional to take place in our country. I am not working outside the constitution. If law and order breaks down, it will affect our economy.
“Like fuel, our electricity and water supply as well as our food supply can be disrupted. We all need to understand this dangerous situation.”
Earlier, Parliamentary Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana confirmed that Rajapaksa “has officially resigned from his position”.
The formal declaration makes Rajapaksa – once known as “The Terminator” for his ruthless crushing of the Tamil rebellion – the first Sri Lankan head of state to resign since it adopted an executive presidency in 1978.
Parliament will now meet on Wednesday to elect a politician to serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term ending in 2024, with nominations due the previous day.
Likely candidates include Wickremesinghe himself, as well as opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and former minister Dullas Alahapperuma, according to reports. Former army commander, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has also told the media that many MPs are asking him to enter the contest.
“I request the honourable and loving citizens of this country to create a peaceful atmosphere in order to implement the proper parliamentary democratic process and enable all members of Parliament to participate in the meetings and function freely and conscientiously,” Abeywardana said.